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Email "bounces" when it can't be delivered. An invalid Email address -- whether the user typed it in wrong or doesn't exist anymore -- is a "hard bounce." Anything else, from a full in-box to a spam block to a connection failure, is a "soft bounce." Many list hosts will try several times to send Email to addresses that soft-bounced; once an address comes back as a hard bounce, it's one shot and you're done.
Bouncing Email has been almost as much of a headache for publishers and list admins to deal with as spam filters. Both are problems that grew quickly from being occasional annoyances to major delivery issues.
Both also require more proactive handling today, because ISPs and incoming mail servers are scrutinizing your bounce management to determine if you're a legitimate publisher or a spammer.
Many of the major list hosts have taken the slack out of their bounce management. List owners won't have the option to keep sending Email to bouncing addresses. That's not a good idea.
It is important to identify and remove invalid Email addresses because ISPs become upset when mail is sent over and over again to addresses that no longer exist,
How many times should you let an address bounce? That's a tough question. On many lists, it's one bounce and you're out. That could be too restrictive, though, if your list-management software doesn't distinguish between hard and soft bounces.
Today's soft-bouncing Email could be tomorrow's successful delivery. If you remove every bounce right away, you could be flushing away lots of good addresses along with the bad.
You should be using an Email marketing service that categorizes bouncebacks and provides detailed reports that allow you to view and manage bounced Email addresses. Take the time to analyze your bouncebacks and remove hard bounces from your list. It should also be easy to correct obvious typos in your list (e.g. ".con" instead of ".com").
Many recipients are fearful of using the unsubscribe function as it has been used by spammers to verify an address, rather than as a legitimate unsubscribe function. So, be alert to unsubscribe requests coming to your "reply to:" address and permanently remove those Email addresses right away.
If your mailing list is critical to your business, you might want to see how much it would cost to have your list sanitized.